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Richey announces candidacy for surrogate judge

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CANTON - John F. Richey of Canton announced his candidacy for the office of Surrogate Judge of St. Lawrence County on Thursday afternoon at the Best Western.

Richey, who has worked in Surrogate’s Court as a principal court attorney for the past 25 years, emphasized his experience in the court and his long-term commitment to the law.

He praised the work ethic of retiring Surrogate Court Judge Kathleen Rogers, and promised if elected to continue her tradition of handling cases in all courts of St. Lawrence County.

Richey, a Democrat, was previously the town and acting village judge of Massena, and is a past president of the St. Lawrence County Bar Association and the St. Lawrence County Magistrates Association.

He noted that on May 31, he will be passing designating petitions seeking the Democratic nomination for surrogate judge.

The following is the text of Richey’s candidacy speech:

Surrogate’s Court tends to be a forgotten court. It doesn’t make the front pages of the newspaper, or even the back pages. Our work is certainly not on the evening news. Most frequently, I’m met with a blank stare when I mention I work in Surrogate’s Court. For those of you who don’t know, Surrogate’s Court primarily involves legal issues related to estates and trusts, guardianships, and adoptions. But the duties of the Surrogate Judge of St. Lawrence County require expertise beyond those specific areas. The Surrogate Judge frequently handles matters in other courts, such as county court and family court.

For the past twenty-five years, this county has been fortunate to have Kathleen Rogers as our Surrogate Judge. Over those years, she not only handled all of the Surrogate matters, but she carried at various times, large caseloads in Family Court, County Court, and most recently, Supreme Court. Over the course of her career, she has demonstrated an unmatched enthusiasm for the law and the administration of justice. She has an unparalleled knowledge of evidenciary law and courtroom procedure. Although final decisions always rested with her, she encouraged a team approach to the operation of the court, and created an office that accomplished its mission. And now she is ready to enter a well-deserved retirement.

Twenty-five years ago, she offered me the opportunity to be her part-time court attorney. I was still a rather new attorney when I accepted the job, believing at the time it would only be for a couple of years. But something happened. I found I loved the work. I enjoyed engaging in the “business” of the court. I’ve always enjoyed the academic side of law, the research and writing of opinions and decisions; but I also discovered I enjoyed the interactions with counsel—guiding the pending litigation through the court, conferencing with attorneys to assist in the settlement of their cases; and putting out the fires that are inevitable to litigation. Acquiring these skills does not happen overnight, and I have spent years developing them. During my initial years with Judge Rogers, I operated a limited private practice in Massena. Then, I accepted an additional part-time court attorney position with the Hon. Robert G. Main, Jr., who is the Franklin County multi-bench judge. I spent the next five years splitting my time between Canton and Malone, until my position in St. Lawrence County was made full-time.

Charlie Boots, the Mayor of Massena in the early 1990’s, took a chance and appointed me as the Acting Village Judge in Massena. I was then twice elected the Town Judge of Massena. In all, I spent almost ten years as a local magistrate in Massena. During that time, I handled thousands of cases, and learned the craft of being a judge. But I didn’t learn only about law; I learned about people. Justice Courts are often said to be the court closest to the people—and that’s very true. I learned about punishment, offender accountability, mercy, and forgiveness. I learned how a judge affects the lives of not only the litigants, defendants, or victims, but their families as well. As Winston Churchill once said, “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.” These single words resonate abundantly in the duties demanded of a judge. Those who have not spent time in the courts will not see the joy on the face of a parent who has just adopted a child, or the pain of a parent embroiled in a custody dispute.

During my career as an attorney, I have served as President of the St. Lawrence County Bar Association, and as President of the St. Lawrence County Magistrates Association. I was a frequent instructor for the Town and Village Judge Training Schools run by the Office of Court Administration. I have been an instructor at the David Sullivan Police Academy at SUNY Canton. I was a member of the St. Lawrence County Criminal Justice Policy Board. I have been a presenter at several Continuing Legal Education programs for attorneys, including a three hour presentation entitled “Introduction to Surrogate’s Court and Basic Estate Practice.” I have been a frequent guest lecturer in various courses at SUNY Canton.

Basically, each step of my career, all of the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired, and the totality of my commitment to the law, lead me to the conclusion that I should seek election to the office of St. Lawrence County Surrogate Judge. In light of that decision, I humbly and respectfully ask for your support in this endeavor. I have been privileged with the unconditional support of my family, and honored by the support of my colleagues. Now, I turn to you, the people of St. Lawrence County, and I ask for your support in my campaign for Surrogate Judge. I believe I have the experience, commitment, and integrity necessary to be an effective Judge.

Justice is a nebulous concept, which like fairness, often seems to reside in the eye of the beholder. As Martin Luther King, Jr., so eloquently said: “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I believe in Justice. And that is my promise to you if I am elected Surrogate Judge: I will strive to do Justice; but Justice as tempered by the legal framework of our system.

Starting on May 31st, I will be passing designating petitions to obtain the Democratic line on the November ballot. I will be knocking on doors and asking for your support. I hope not only for your signature, but your vote in November. Thank you

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